Frank and Alice and Disapparated from their wedding in a bewitched Muggle car that Frank had rented for the occasion. Alice had suppressed a laugh when she'd seen it in front of the church. She'd been married in a hurried, last-minute ceremony wearing a dress she had borrowed from Emma Bones, and flowers she had picked from Edgar's garden, but Frank had found a wizard to rent him the Muggle car. She approved; the car was a lot more fun than the dress.
The car landed on an empty road and immediately started hopping up and down like a rabbit on a chain, while Frank frowned in concentration jerking a stick until the car finally took off like a fox.
Frank took a deep breath and then turned to her, his cheeks red with embarrassment. "That shouldn't have happened. The bloke at the agency gave me some lessons before he let me rent this thing, but I just forgot everything once we started. It'll get better."
Alice just pointed wildly at the front glass window of the car. Their road was curving to the left, but their car was still going straight, and Alice didn't think that was right. Frank adjusted the wheel and settled in to driving. They ran along the coast, making a wide loop at a cliff and running on into the distant moor. The grass rippled like an ocean and below the cliffs the sea crashed against rocky beaches.
Frank slowed the car until the green world began to pass them at a gentle pace. He looped slowly from one side of the road to the other in wide swings. The dream-like music of Hendrix flowed out of the car dashboard like water.
"So my darling and I make love in the sand," Frank sang, following the difficult march of the music with precision born of practice. He swung the car around in a big circle and then brought it to a stop. With a quick sidelong glance at Alice, who had turned to him with a wondering look, he Apparated the car to the empty beach below. Well, we have the sand now, Alice thought.
Without a word, Frank turned to her and kissed her. This, not their formal kiss at the wedding or the silly ones in answer to friends' demands, was their first real married kiss. Alice tasted it, considered it. Did it feel different, she wondered? Did she feel different to Frank?
He lowered his mouth to the top of her breast, just on the edge of the neckline of her dress. She sighed. Frank looked up and pulled her long hair away from her shoulder, kissing her neck, her throat. They're married and now everything has changed; only it hasn't. "Do you want to move to the back seat?" he whispered.
The question was so incongruous and unexpected that she stared at him uncomprehending, unsure of what he was talking about. Then the realization hit her.
"Frank, are you pretending to be a Muggle?" His grin in response was so charming a laugh bubbled up inside her. "Do Muggles really have sex in cars?"
"They do in the songs."
"Our first time married sex isn't supposed to be in a car," she told him. "It's supposed to be formal, in a bed, while wearing lovely lingerie." Surely sex was the last of the wedding rituals. They had taken their vows in front of their friends and now that they were alone they were performing the last rite. It was important and had to be done correctly.
"I must have missed those instructions when I went for the marriage license." Frank dipped his head and kissed the skin on the edge of her dress's neckline, and then drew back to give her a sly look.
Alice reached around her back to unzip.
"No, don't, keep the dress on," he said. "I like it."
Frank crawled over the top of the front seat and settled himself in the back of the car, offering her his hand as an invitation to join him. Alice lifted herself over the seat, tossing herself on top of Frank. The long skirt of her dress tangled around her legs and ripped as she went over. So much for that, she thought, as he leaned forward to catch her, pulling her onto his lap.
"Am I your Muggle girlfriend?" she whispered.
"You're you. You could never be anything but you," he whispered back.
He tilted his head and stared into her eyes in open invitation. A memory flickered for a moment -- she could see the two of them alone, together in the field where they practiced manoeuvres on their brooms. She was crawling on top of him, straddling him, her hands gripping his hair as she lowered her head to kiss him and his hands slid down from her waist.
Alice smiled. She leaned forward and pressed her hands against his chest, pushing him back against the door of the car. She bunched her dress up around her waist and slid her knee over his lap, wedging it between the seat back and his body and bracing her other foot against the car floor. She pulled her wand out to do a quick Birth Control Charm, willing to carry Frank's little Muggle fantasy only so far.
"I did one before we left," Frank whispered, as he slid the leg of her knickers aside. She leaned over him and kissed him, her long hair falling around them like a cape.
They were together in the back seat of a Muggle car in the middle of the afternoon, but it still felt like a ceremony, like they were sealing the marriage and making it permanent.
She lifted her head and his eyes sought hers, open, welcoming. Frank didn't know what she would find but he didn't care. He let her in anyway. Frank was inside of her and she was inside of him. She could feel what he could feel, touching and feeling the touch at the same time, like a big circle with a twist in it.
Afterwards, Alice and Frank lay on the beach, covered by her blanket-transfigured wedding dress, their legs wrapped around each other. She felt heavy and languid, moulded into the cushioned ground like a stone in sand. She listened to the slap of the water sliding over the beach, with the flow of the tide. Her wedding ring felt heavy on her finger. Alice wondered if people who were serious about marriage had sex in the car on the way to their honeymoon.
She turned to Frank and touched his face. He wasn't handsome but she loved the look of him, especially his mouth, and jaw, and the bones of his cheeks.
"Are we serious?" she whispers. Her question sounded ridiculous, even to her. They were married. They loved each other. How much more serious could two people be? But they were doing the same sort of things they would have done before the wedding. Did you have to act differently once you were married?
"I've never been more serious about anything in my life," he said.
Over his head, she could see the cliffs where they'd been driving earlier. This was a beautiful and empty place.
"Did it feel different, having married sex?" It had felt different to her. She couldn't say how, more powerful maybe.
"Different, better, no -- more significant. Yes! That's it! More significant." His eyes sharpened. He reached over her onto the beach and grabbed a small green stone. He handed it to her. It was a heart, crooked and rough, but recognizably a heart.
"You transfigured that," she said, but he shook his head. The shape was real and a good omen.
She leaned over to kiss him when she realized something and pulled back. "I never said I love you. Before in the car, I didn't say it."
That made him laugh and he pulled her on top of him.
"You said so already, you screamed it out in the car at the end," he told her. "I'm surprised you don't remember."
Alice didn't remember that; surely she would remember if it had happened. Alice prided herself on being quiet during sex. It seemed more in keeping with the secretive Auror she was supposed to be. "I would know if I'd screamed." She glanced at him. He must be teasing her. She couldn't have been so lost to herself that she didn't know she had screamed. "You're making that up."
"Maybe, I just thought you did because I was screaming it in my own head."
"I love you Frank." She took his hand and rubbed her thumb over his wedding ring. They lay there till the hypnotic march of Hendrix's music started to play from the car, sounding like it rose from the water around them. "I awake from yesterday alive, but the war is here to stay," Hendrix sang from the car
"I set that so we would know when we had to leave to get to the hotel on time," Frank whispered.
They had only two days before they had to report to the Aurors again. Two days and back to work, and training.
"We had better get going," Frank said. "The hotel is waiting. You can show me some of that lovely lingerie."
xxx xxx xxx
Alice sat across from Frank at a table in a pub in Muggle Manchester, two empty glasses of beer between them. They'd gone out for the evening, hop scotching across Britain, stopping at Muggle pubs, or hidden alleys just to walk, and then Apparating away to a new place, hoping their meandering would confuse anyone who followed them.
"Are you sure, Alice? This baby idea came on awfully fast." She'd sprung the idea on Frank this morning, expecting him to be happy.
"What are you talking about? You've been bringing it up for years." He'd first mentioned the idea on their seventh wedding anniversary.
"That's just the point. I've been bringing it up for years and you've been putting me off saying it wasn't the right time, that everything was too dangerous. To be honest, I had to agree." Frank leaned across the table. His knees pressed against hers. "Well, it's hardly safe now."
Alice snorted a twisted, repressed laugh through her nose. With so many of their friends dead, the word 'safe' was absurd, but hardly funny. She shook her head, not knowing what to say. Two days after the funeral for Emma, Edgar, and the kids, she had decided she wanted a baby. How could she explain it? It was crazy, but there it was.
"I've been worried about you." Frank reached over and caressed her face. "You've taken… things very hard." She'd shown up at the house even after Scrimgeour had ordered her off, getting in everyone's way and crying over the remains of the children -- very unprofessional. Gawain and Proudfoot had pretended not to see, but she knew they'd noticed.
Frank leaned even closer to her, frowning, his eyebrows so drawn together they were meeting in the middle. "This isn't revenge; is it, Alice? After seeing those kids, I wanted to have a dozen just to show the bastards I wasn't afraid, but I don't think that's the best reason to have a baby."
"Oh, that would be sad wouldn't it? Poor little revenge-baby born so his mother could make a rude gesture at Death Eaters. Poor thing."
Frank smiled, but said nothing, waiting. He had his patient, I'm-ready-to-listen-when you're-ready-to-talk look on his face, which almost made her angry but didn't because, really, she wasn't making any sense. She hugged her arms around herself. There was no baby yet, just the thought of one, but even that was comforting.
Alice looked down at the table. She could tell him that she wanted something to fill her up after all her losses, which was true. She could tell him that she thought she deserved some part of a normal life, which was selfish, but true, too.
She couldn't tell him that she wanted a piece of both of them to live on. That she would never allow herself to say out loud.
"I'm tired of fighting all the time. I want something in my life that has nothing to do with the war, something innocent and clean. I want to take care of someone, someone little, sweet, and warm." She gave him a bemused smile. His knees pressed up closer against hers. "Someone who looks like you."
"Now that makes perfect sense." Frank sat up and looked around. "We should go. It's not safe. We've already spent too much time here already."
They left the pub and ducked into an alley, walking along, looking for a secluded Disapparation point. Frank stopped and pulled her into a doorway, kissed her and Side-Along Apparated her to the lee of some rocks on a beach, at the base of a cliff.
Frank pulled her against him and held her close. "Do you remember this place?" he asked, singing softly, "… my darling and I make love in the sand." His breath brushed her ear, the side of her face.
Alice closed her eyes. She liked the smell of beer mixed with the brine of the sea. "We were here on our honeymoon," she told him. They'd had sex in a car on this very beach.
"I've never told anyone. Have you?"
She shook her head, turned in his arms and kissed him in answer, holding onto him for warmth. The slippery liquid of a Disillusionment Charm trickled over her body, while Frank's fingers followed the spell's slide. She felt for his face, the familiar contours of his cheekbones and his jaw. She brushed his throat and then ran her fingertips down his jumper and along the edge to his back, pushing under his clothes to the smooth skin.
Somehow, they were on the ground on the sand, he was on top of her and she clung to him, relishing his warmth and the weight of his body against hers. He must have cast a Bubble Charm because the wind had stopped and the chill was gone. His hands carefully moved through her clothes. She kissed him on his chest, finding the familiar spot with her lips.
It was dusk and the light was dim. She couldn't see him and she couldn't see herself, only the sand, the darkening sea and sky, and the shadowed rocks that surrounded her. She was sensation floating on the sand as the sea splashed against the shore.
They were exposed, and vulnerable, with nothing but the Disillusionment charm and the seclusion of the place to protect them, but she didn't care. After a life of vigilance, letting go felt too good to stop; besides, no one knew where they were, not their enemies, nor their friends, and that kept them safe.
He was inside of her and for the first time together, they hadn't used any charms to keep them from having a baby, and that was exciting and a little feral. She was flinging herself over a cliff and had no idea where she was going to land. The sex felt so powerful it could create someone who wasn't there.
Would she get her baby now? she wondered.
Frank asked the same question later when she lay curled up against his chest like a cat, wrapped in a bubble of warmth while around them the night became darker and colder. "It doesn't work like that," she said, ignoring her own thoughts earlier. "It could take months and months."
xxx xxx xxx
Alice lay on the floor trying to lure her Kneazle, Spots, out from under the couch, where it had fled after a nasty scuffle with her mother's Barn Owl. Heavily pregnant, she found crouching on the floor damned uncomfortable, but was unwilling to summon the animal, afraid of hurting or scaring it. Something in her voice convinced the notional creature and he crawled over to her, docile and sweet, allowing her to pull him onto her lap.
The animal purred languidly, curling and uncurling its tail, as she healed its broken nails and bleeding footpad. She held him close against her belly while the baby kicked with energetic abandon. (It was his thumpy time of day.) Kneazles had powerful senses and could feel the baby's presence. Alice wanted to teach it to love Neville even before he was born. Kneazles were fiercely protective and Neville would need all the protection he could get.
There was a disturbing spirit in the air, a nasty excitement directed toward her and her baby. Investigations had not yet revealed a specific threat, but only an intense and sinister interest.
She had known pregnancy would make her vulnerable and would make fighting difficult. She had known her baby would be in danger. After Edgar and Emma, how could she not? But she hadn't expected her baby to be interesting to her enemies. This unnerved and angered her because it made her feel naïve and unprepared, which Alice hated.
The Kneazle became quickly bored with her petting. It trotted off to the window sill to watch for intruders, ready to add its angry hiss to the warning spells that guarded the walls and grounds of the house.
Alice would have liked to sneak under the couch to lick her wounds herself. Instead, she stretched out sideways on the ground rubbing her belly on the spot where she imagined Neville's little back was. In this new position the furniture loomed at odd angles above her, appearing foreign and huge, reminding her of being a little kid and hiding under the dinner table to sulk after being punished.
The owl had come to deliver a letter from Alice's mother begging her to leave the Aurors, and her "other sideline" meaning the Order, because in her words "a good mother puts her child's welfare first." Her mother knew how to throw a punch; Alice had to give her that. Alice couldn't even get angry at her for it, because her argument made sense. Alice stroked Neville's imagined back feeling sorry for such a little person, who had nothing but her body between him and an evil world.
Frank sat beside her on the floor. "I saw your mother's owl," he said.
Alice didn't say anything. What could she?
He slid his hand along the side of her hip and over her belly. "A lot of people abroad would love to hire an ex-Auror bodyguard."
She pulled herself up to look him in the eye. Why was he saying this? Did he want to run away? Was he afraid? Did he think Alice was? She would be an idiot not to be.
His hands slid up to the back of her neck, making circles. "Think about it."
He was blocking her; she tried to look into his mind but he was blocking her. He knew she would look and was making sure she could find nothing. She stared at him, frustrated. Was he embarrassed? She couldn't feel it if he was; she couldn't even tell if he was afraid.
What would she do if Frank couldn't handle things anymore, if he asked her to run?
She was tempted to probe around, move past his blocks to find what he wanted. She knew she could. He knew she could too, but trusted she wouldn't. In all their years of marriage, her playful probes had never poked around where he hadn't wanted her.
He sat quietly, waiting. He hadn't really said what he wanted. Was he fishing for her to be the one to ask to go, because he was too proud to ask himself? She couldn't tell.
She would have to give her answer without knowing what he wanted.
His hands were on her shoulders, her neck. She leaned against him. What did she want? They'd fought for ten years. Their friends were dead and they weren't any closer to winning. At what point did fighting become futile?
"The baby would be safer," Alice said, but she knew he would not be entirely safe. You-Know-Who could strike overseas.
Frank continued to rub her back and neck. She closed her eyes and imagined herself abroad, maybe in America, or the Antipodes, a respected veteran of a grinding war, who had served for years, had lost friends, and had fled for her life to protect her child. She and Frank would be held in high regard, even sought after, while Neville would be safe, carefree. Their life would be a good one.
She could do it. She could even convince herself that she was still serving, drumming up support for the Order, warning others ministries against the Death Eater threat. Occasionally, news would filter down to wherever she was hiding. She would wonder about the friends she left behind, learning about their deaths long after the fact, knowing she'd offered them no real hope or help. Every day in this new wonderful place, she and Frank would know they had run away to save themselves.
Would it come between them or would they force themselves to stop caring?
"We can't do it. We can't leave the others."
They were Aurors. They fought Dark Wizards. What good were they if they didn't?
The hand on her back didn't falter, but continued to make small circles. "I could stay behind."
Alice spun around to face him grabbing his shoulders and leaning on them. "I hate the idea. We stay or go together. We have this baby together." The baby started kicking wildly. She dropped her hand to her belly and rubbed frowning at Frank. "I mean it. You won't change my mind over this." She was not going to give him up to the war.
He nodded, his eyes serious as he looked steadily into hers, but he was blocking her. She still could not see any of what he was thinking.
"I wanted to hear you say it," he said.
She nodded and pressed her hand against the baby. Neville will be safe. They were professionals and protected people for a living. With his pair of Auror bodyguards, he would be as safe as the Minister of Magic, no, safer, because their house had better security.
He kissed her mouth. She kissed him back and then leaned away to study his face. "I'm not leaving you behind. I'm serious."
His fingers slid up into her hair. He smiled a soft smile.
"Yes, you've made yourself clear," he told her. He kissed her throat, her neck, her cheek. She relaxed against him, closing her eyes.
"So my darling and I make love in the sand," he half sang, half whispered to her.
She opened her eyes. Frank had Transfigured the room. The furniture and carpet were gone, replaced by rocks and sand. The room was misty, the edges blurred. The ocean beyond the fog revealed only by the sound of the waves. They were in their honeymoon spot, where they had gone the night they decided to have Neville.
"I planned this out last night while I was out on patrol."
"You were coming up with ways for us to have sex?" Alice asked, his intention being obvious.
"It makes surveillance a lot more interesting."
"I'm always the object of these scenarios right?"
"Always, love." He smiled, his hands still in her hair; his face close to hers. "That's how I first noticed you. I was thinking about which one of the girls I knew would be the most… fun."
"The most fun?"
"For want of a better word, yeah. I decided you would be."
Alice laughed. "You presumptuous bastard. I thought you were a sweet and modest young man , but no, you were full of yourself the whole time."
"I didn't assume it would happen. Just if it did, you would be fun."
Their first times together, she remembered as clumsy, nervous and awkward.
"I must have been a disappointment," she said. "I don't remember being inventive or clever."
"You, the disappointment?"
Their first time, Frank had been so excited he'd finished too quickly -- practically before he'd begun. With heart-rending embarrassment, he'd stammered an apology until she'd silenced him with a kiss that had gone on till things had started up again. That second time had been sweeter for it. Tenderness overwhelmed her. She kissed him fiercely, clinging to him, her heavy belly between them.
"Slow down," he whispered, gently setting a pace. "I'm not going anywhere."
He lay behind her on the floor curled around her like a cupped hand. She couldn't see his eyes, his face, as his hands slipped over her.
Later while Frank slept beside her, his arm heavy across her belly, his face pressed against the back of her neck, she peered through the mists that surrounded the rocks and cliffs looking for the walls of the room that they obscured. This was no ordinary Transfiguration; the planning must have taken days. He had recreated the place where they'd begun their marriage and their baby-making. What must Frank have been thinking if he considered their conversation today in the same league?
"So my darling and I make love in the sand," she whispered and took his hand in hers. She rubbed his wedding ring with her thumb and stretched like a cat against him.
As she drifted to sleep, the Transfiguration faded slowly away and they were in their sitting room again. The Kneazle still sat on the window sill, staring out into the night, looking for enemies.